Monday, August 12, 2013

The Old Missions of Buena Park, Part V

Leon Bayard de Volo shows his miniature of Grauman's Chinese Theatre to actresses Jane Greer and Myrna Dell.
(Continued from Part IV...)  Just when I thought I'd completed my series on the Knott's mission models and their creator, Leon Bayard de Volo, I heard from the artist's son. I am happy to report that there is more to the story, and it's all worth sharing...

Nicolo "Nick" Bayard de Volo, writes, "My brother and I found your recent blog about the California Mission models at Knott’s Berry Farm to be particularly interesting and were pleased to hear about the plans for their refurbishment and reintroduction to the park."

He pointed out that their full surname is "Bayard de Volo," rather than "De Volo." He also set the record straight on several other counts: "Although both our maternal and paternal grandfathers were counts and the name is a noble name, we are not sufficiently familiar with the heraldic rules governing title succession to validate our father’s claim to the title of Count.  Furthermore, we don’t know of any connection to the King of Italy."
News clipping from the Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 6, 1929.
Nick also shared more information about his father's background: "My father grew up as a son in an aristocratic, religious family (his father was secretary to Pope Leo) and his education received in the Vatican didn't include any formal art training. His life was surrounded by great art however, inside his home and out, and that instilled in him an instinct for creating art as a profession. His greatest aptitude in this regard was creativity which spawned the ideas that allowed him to earn a living. So what he did wasn't great art but it was creative and accomplished."

This information mostly confirms an article found in the Jan. 3, 1947 issue of the Catholic Northwest Progress: "Leon Bayard de Volo was born in St. Peter's Parish, Rome. His father, Count Joseph Bayard de Volo, was special secretary to Pope Leo XIII, and the boy was educated at St. Peter's Seminary. But his mother, recognizing Leon's special gift, engaged Professor Toeschi to give him art instruction in the home; and at the age of 17, he was named art critic of L'Osservatore Romano. Incidentally, his mother -- called to her eternal reward three years ago at the age of 88--was decorated twice by Pope Pius XI in recognition of her charitable work among the poor of Rome, and by the Italian Government for her Red Cross activities during World War I.
Header from article about Bayard de Volo in the Catholic Northwest Progress, Jan, 3, 1947.
"Bayard de Volo came to the United States in 1908 on a six-months visit, but he has never returned to his homeland. His wife is a Russian, and the artist recalls their wedding with some amusement since 'neither of us spoke English very well.' However, it was his knowledge of other languages that enabled him to make a living until the time when he became established as an artist...

"A very special job of his was the carved and gold inlaid ivory floor of the chapel in the Colleen Moore Doll House--a replica of a floor in the Vatican palace."
The Fairy Castle commissioned by silent movie actress Colleen Moore holds many surprises, including a painting by Walt Disney and tiny 2,000 year-old statues.
Nick confirms this last detail too, saying his father "was one of the artisans that created the Colleen Moore Doll House, completed in 1935 and on permanent display in the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry.  This magnificent fairy tale castle was world famous and toured the world’s capitals for many years.  Around the same time, he was very involved with the wine industry in the bay area (including Sonoma) for which he designed exhibits for trade shows, floats for parades and projects for wine festivals."

That makes it especially appropriate that a set of his mission models is now on display at a California winery.
The chapel of the Colleen Moore Doll House includes a copy of the throne at Westminster Abbey.
Leon Bayard de Volo also was art director for the Greek Theater, made floats for 1931 La Fiesta de Los Angeles electrical pageant, and was involved in innumerable other creative endeavors around Southern California.
A float La Fiesta de Los Angeles electrical pageant, 1931.
Nick writes that his father's work included "the design of floats used in the Motion Picture Electrical Pageant,  performed in the Coliseum in 1936; the design and construction of the Santa Claus float used for decades in the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade; and the design and construction of all 15 floats, one for each movie star, used in the NBC-Santa Claus Lane Parade in 1947.
New Santa Claus float at the 1931 Hollywood Christmas parade.
"He did make the missions that were first exhibited in the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco and currently reside in the California Mission Museum in Sonoma. As surmised in your blog, he subsequently made at least two additional sets of the California Missions.  The first of these (the second set) was constructed for Miniature Fabricators, Inc. in the 1945 time frame and subsequently toured the country for a period of time including being exhibited in Atlantic City in the summer of 1946. The same financial backer, John Author Productions, also commissioned my father to make selected miniatures of Hollywood to go on tour with the mission miniatures."
The main portion of "Hollywood in Miniature," by Bayard de Volo, as it appeared in 2007.
To be continued in Part VI (the story of "Hollywood In Miniature")...


outsidetheberm said...

Great information! Thank you, Chris.

Anonymous said...

Wow, an amazing life.